Jerusalem is a city where you can go to the same place every day and never have the same experience twice. For example, I think I have been inside the Church of the Resurrection three times. I was interested the first time, quite moved the second time, and rather put off the third time. I will go back, of course. The old city in particular is beautiful, but not really photogenic. The pictures in Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s cookbook are taken by professionals. Even though I’m no great photographer, and usually just have an iPhone for a camera, this place is especially hard to photograph well, and the photograph rarely captures much of what it was about a place or a moment that made such an impression. The other night, I was on a rooftop from which I could see the Church of the Resurrection, the Church of the Redeemer, the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock, and the Mount of Olives under a full moon. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen, and this doesn’t begin to do it justice.
Anger and sorrow are never far away though. Outside the building, a major thoroughfare had been blocked off to Palestinians, I gather to keep it clear and—I hate this word—secure for Jews going to the Western Wall for Succoth. I’m all for the Jewish community celebrating a divinely appointed festival safely. It’s just that it was done—and is always done—entirely on Israel’s terms. On another night, there might be no blockade (inshallah), but the moon might not be full, I might not have just heard such a good presentation at the Swedish Christian Study Center, or whatever showed itself on Tuesday might just not choose to show itself again. That’s Jerusalem for you.
At a social function last week, I asked a couple of people who have lived here longer than me what the most transparently holy place in Jerusalem is. Here are my own answers. They contradict one another. I haven’t visited every holy place in Jerusalem even once. I am a newcomer here, and will be leaving about the time I start to be less of a newcomer. Ask me again in December when I leave, and I might give you a different answer. Ask me again tomorrow, and I might give you a different answer. But at the moment, I think the most transparently holy place in Jerusalem is… Continue reading